Warm weather, beautiful scenery on IAT

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Russ Helwig | May 28, 2014

Norwin Watson led six hikers on this walk last Tuesday which was a quick trek around Lake LaGrange. He did not have much to report other than wild geraniums in bloom and a fisherman in a kayak on the lake enjoying the weather.

Norwin led this medium-long walk Wednesday, again with six hikers. They carpooled to the hunter's parking lot off Wisconsin Highway 59 along the Ice Age Trail to hike to Wilton Road and back. At Wilton Road they went by road to County Highway N and found many wild geraniums along the route. At Highway N, the west side of the road was recovering from a controlled burn and looked great. A fisherman on the stream there caught a chub and a shiner while they looked on. He was fishing for trout.

They continued south on Highway N to the Ice Age Trail crossing. Along the way they found some wild asparagus to snack on. Then they returned on the Ice Age Trail to the parking lot.  Along the way they stopped for trail snacks. They found that it was a bit wet between the parking lot and the prairie with a small pond stretching across the trail, but they were able to get across without getting too wet.

A tasty lunch was had afterwards at the Kettle Hill Grille in Palmyra.

Bonnie Nommensen writes on Wednesday's long walk:
Three of the long distance hikers wanted to hike the Devil's Staircase in Rock County. After a 35- minute ride we arrived at Riverside Park in Janesville. Right before turning into Riverside Park, we saw a coyote running across the road in front of us. After parking at the North Pavilion we had a beautiful view of Rock River, with two geese and a couple of goslings enjoying the water.  We proceeded to the start of the Devil's Lake Segment, and began to climb the steep, stone staircase that leads half way up the bluff. We continued north along the path which followed the Rock River on one side and rock and sandstone cliffs on the other side. This path offers fine views of the Rock River. We encountered several native wild flowers in bloom. Rue anemone carpeted much of the forest floor, as well as false rue anemone. We saw trillium, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, red columbine, May apples, shooting stars all in bloom. We saw the remains of earlier spring plants, such as spring beauties, blood root, and hepatica.We climbed the Devils Staircase, which took us up to Riverside Golf Course, which we crossed and continued to follow the Ice Age Trail by entering Arbor Ridge. We passed the Janesville Schools Outdoor Laboratory and continued on to the Arboretum. There were many spur trails one could take which were marked with signs pointing out various trees, or animal habitat. Once we reached the Arboretum, we had a snack and then walked back on the IAT to where our car was parked. Our pedometer clocked 6.8 miles, all of which were beautiful. Upon getting back to our car, we discovered it was 85 degrees, and we were very happy we had the beautiful canopy of the forest to make our hike very comfortable. We arrived back at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk at 2:45 p.m., and all three of us agreed that the Devil's Staircase is one of our favorite segments of the Ice Age Trail.

Ellen Davis writes on Wednesday's short walk:

Sixteen hikers carpooled to the Nordic Trails for a 3.6-mile outing on the green trail. With Jake in the lead, we set out with great enthusiasm on this first Wednesday hike of the season warm enough to wear short-sleeved shirts. 

In spite of the rain the evening before, the trail was firm and dry. The predominant color of the woods around us was noticeably greener than it had been a week ago.  Birdsong was a continuous background accompaniment. We still saw the occasional buttercup and cluster of anemones, but now wild strawberry blossoms beside the trail promised tiny treats in weeks to come. 

By the time we reached the first significantly steep hill, our enthusiasm for this summer-like day had waned considerably. It was no longer “warm” – it was hot. I had finished my water already, and several others were running low. Jake stopped at every intersection to regroup and offer the option of a shorter hike to anyone interested. There were no takers.

As we slowly climbed a particularly challenging hill, we noted shooting stars finally beginning to bloom. At the edge of the lookout, hoary puccoon brightened the grass. Further on we found kitten tails and pussy toes (the flora, not the fauna) and half of a tiny geode on the trail. But still no morels.

Warm and thirsty and ready for lunch, we adjourned to the La Grange General Store – where several of our group celebrated this “heat wave” with ice cream.

Wednesday's Flower Walk:

Four of us decided to hike to a few places to explore any new wildflowers in bloom. Our main objective was to see if we could hike to Trillium Island. We tried, but failed to get all the way to the “island” due to high water. A couple other favorite spots we visited offered us huge drifts of wood phlox, some wild geranium, shooting star, and a few fringed puccoon in bloom. We also found blue-eyed grass in bud stage.

After the attempt to get to Trillium Island we had a great lunch at Pickets Country Market in Rome. While there we inspected the launch area for canoes, kayaks, and tubes from their parking lot which is on the Bark River. Besides fresh homemade food and many flavors of Chocolate Shop Ice Cream this unique and locally popular store has a nice variety of other items from groceries to bait for fishing.

Happy Trekking,


Russ Helwig is a volunteer with the Walworth/Jefferson County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. (262) 473-2187 or www.iceagetrail.org

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